A Gentle Introduction To EpiCommerce

Creating and planning your first e-commerce project can be a daunting thought. E-commerce websites are complex and in general an e-commerce website will have a lot more moving parts and things to consider compared to a standard website.

The primary focus of this post is for beginners completely new to e-commerce with the aim to educate them about the basics of e-commerce and what you will need to consider for your project.  This guide isn’t going to cover any code but explains what e-commerce websites are and why you should consider Episerver commerce.

What Is ECommerce?

Wikipedia defines e-commerce as:

Electronic commerce, commonly known as E-commerce, is trading in products or services using computer networks, such as the Internet. Electronic commerce draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems.

Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web for at least one part of the transaction’s life cycle, although it may also use other technologies such as e-mail, mobile devices, social media, and telephones.

Having a store on your website will provide you with a great potential revenue stream and choosing the right platform is a key factor. Episerver CMS is known for its ease of use even for non-programmers, and this is also the case with Episerver commerce.

Let’s say you’ve decided to start an online store, the next decision is will we buy an established e-commerce platform, or will we develop a custom one in-house?
Developing in-house will allow you to create something that will exactly meet your business needs, however, if you’re reading this then you are probably new to e-commerce and you’ll have to go through a lot of learning and pain in order to get to that stage.  In fact, whenever I’ve done these types of the project in-house, it’s always taken years to get to a stage where the business can relaunch!

On the other side of the coin, you have the choice of buying something that already exists.  Using an existing project, usually means you can bolt in a lot of functionality very rapidly.  After installing the product (which takes an hour), your content editors will instantly have access to a PIM, customer management, and invoice management screens.  Your developers will also have access to a range of API’S to talk to, add items to a basket, checkout and send an order to a payment gateway.

Obviously, the above statement is very idealistic and in reality you will hit problems and issues.  It’s never just a case of buying some software and it does everything you want it to.  Almost every commerce has them, but the principles are the same.  When you buy a commercial tool, you’re using something that has been developed by people who probably know more about e-commerce software than you do.

Another big consideration is updated.  E-commerce sites are always high targets for people wanting to do malicious things to your site.  If you build bespoke software you need to keep track of all the latest vulnerabilities and you are solely responsible for maintaining your code.  When you use off-the-shelf products, you will also have the benefit of upgrades.  There will be a team of core developers working day in, day out, to improve the product.  In most cases, you can update a few changes and within a few hours get great new features and bug fixes without having to do anything yourself!

Considerations When Picking An Ecommerce Platform

I’m going to assume you’ve decided you want to use a third-party commerce product for your website now.  In that case, you have several considerations when you want to pick a solution which is either free or won’t cost you more than a hundred bucks. The potential concerns for you at that time are:

  • Customization: How flexible is the platform.  Your business will have custom workflows and processes that will need to work in conjunction with your website.  Will the new software be easy to customize and make it work the way you need it to?
  • Security: Security is the biggest concern for every e‑commerce site. No site can afford the brand damage from fraudulent usage, hacked credit card data going missing. Having bad security not only puts your customers’ credentials at stake but puts you in the firing squad to get sued.  How do you tackle such issues?
  • Performance: Performance should be a key consideration for any website.  You will need a solution that has been proven to work under a high-load.
  • User Experience: One often overlooked aspect of building an in-house platform is how long it will take you to write the user interfaces.  The PIM, customer management screens will all need to be written.  Getting this right will take time.

If you are still reading this, then EpiCommerce might be a good fit for you.   EpiCommerce is a paid product developed by Episerver.  EpiCommerce has been around in some flavor for nearly a decade so it’s been built on a lot of learning.  EpiCommerce now powers hundreds of eCommerce websites worldwide, including a number of high-traffic websites.

EpiCommerce lets you sell anything you want online with ease.  You can sell a physical, virtual, downloadable, or even an affiliate/external product with this very plugin.  Like Episerver CMS, you do not know anything technical to use the product itself, instead of trying to write something custom, you can  enjoy a lot of flexibility in selling your products with Commerce.

Like EpiserverCMS, commerce is a platform and you will still need developers to do the initial implementation. EpiCommerce is not only about setting up your own web store, EpiCommerce  is a complete platform that allows you to manage everything around your online business.

Take Away

Hopefully, this guide will give you some fuel for thought about your online store.  If you want to become an e-merchant and you don’t want to write everything from scratch in-house, then EpiCommerce is there to save the day.  Episerver is being used successfully by a lot of companies worldwide.

If you are considering Episerver commerce, I would strongly recommend you speak to another company who have implemented it.  Episerver commerce is still an improving product and a lot of improvements have been made to it in the last few years.  Episerver is putting a lot of time and effort to constantly improve the product.  However, commerce builds are very complex.

If you need any help about commerce and want some independent advice, please feel free to ask me anything.  You can contact me from this page.

Jon D Jones

Software Architect, Programmer and Technologist Jon Jones is founder and CEO of London-based tech firm Digital Prompt. He has been working in the field for nearly a decade, specializing in new technologies and technical solution research in the web business. A passionate blogger by heart , speaker & consultant from England.. always on the hunt for the next challenge

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